5.5.2 Zechariah 9 And The Two Comings Of Messiah
9) Zechariah 9: The Two Comings Of Messiah
a) The description of a man riding on a donkey in Zech. 9:9 is very vague. Many men rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and just because Jesus did is no proof that he is Messiah.
b) There is no indication that Messiah will have two comings. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 98a says that if the Jews were worthy then Messiah would come in the dramatic way described in Dan. 7:13,14; if unworthy, they would see Him coming in a lowly form, riding on a donkey as outlined in Zech. 9:9.
a) This part of the objection contradicts the quotation from the Talmud in b), which accepts the possibility of Zech.9:9 having a Messianic application. The argument is frequently used by Jews that the opinion of the Rabbis should be followed; but it seems here that objections are being made which contradict Rabbinic teaching. This in itself shows a desperation that is altogether illogical, and indicates that an appeal to rational logic is not enough to disprove the Messiahship of Jesus. If indeed the prophecy is as vague as this objection claims, then surely there was no point in Zechariah being inspired to write this. The New Testament records how when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, the people immediately recognized this as a Messianic action, because they then lined the streets and shouted their praise of " the son of David" , i.e. Messiah (Matt.21:9).
b) Putting all Messianic prophecy together, it would be impossible for it all to be fulfilled in one coming of Messiah. We have mentioned in the transcript the prophecies of Messiah's rejection by Israel; they would hardly have done this to a Messiah who came in glory and irresistibly established His Kingdom on a perfected earth. It therefore follows that they did so to Messiah when he came in a lowly form, with no natural attraction for Israel (Is.53:2). However, there are other prophecies of Messiah coming in power and glory (Dan.7:13,14). This must refer to His second coming, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in fulfilment of the many prophecies about the Messianic Kingdom, not least in the promises to Abraham and David (Gen.22:17,18; 17:8; 2 Sam.7:12-16; Ps.45,72; Isa.11 etc.).
The quotation from the Talmud made in this objection, if it is true, opens up a great spectrum of doubt as to the validity of God's word. If some prophecies of Scripture will never be fulfilled due to Israel's unworthiness, then those parts of God's word are untrue. This seems an all too convenient way of overcoming a difficult problem for Judaism to grapple with. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and very soon afterwards was crucified by the Jews, followed 40 years later by the destruction of the temple and therefore the end of the Old Covenant. If what is suggested in the Talmud is true, then Israel are therefore declared unworthy -by reason of crucifying Jesus. However, there may well be a principle of deferment- that prophecies have their fulfilment deferred depending on the spiritual state of those with whom the prophecy deals. The case of Jonah's prophecies against Nineveh well indicate this. Thus the coming of Messiah in glory may be delayed (in human eyes) due to Israel's unworthiness, but the prophecy of it in Dan.7:13,14 will never be negated -otherwise we have the frightening prospect of God's word not being totally true, and being prone to failure. David so often expressed the opposite view in the Psalms: " For ever, Lord, Thy word stands fast...Thy word is pure from the beginning...therefore Thy servant loveth it" . With this principle of the infallibility of God's word established, the Jews have to accept that the two different comings of Messiah which the prophecies speak of must both be fulfilled; and this can only be by Messiah having two comings.
The quotation from the Talmud shows that the Jews recognize that there are Messianic prophecies which cannot be fulfilled at the same coming of Messiah. If they accept that God's word is inspired and therefore certain to be eventually fulfilled, they will accept that there must be two comings of Messiah.
We have shown in the latter part of our comments on Dan.9 that two comings of Messiah are hinted at there, seeing that he is called " Messiah the prince" , whereas elsewhere it is quite clear that Messiah is to be a king, reigning on David's re-established throne in Jerusalem (2 Sam.7:12-16; Ps.72,89). It is also instructive to consider the typical pattern set by many of Israel's previous saviours:
- Moses was rejected by Israel at his first coming and appeal to them; but on his return 40 years later he was accepted by them.
- David was rejected by his brothers.
- Joshua (same word as 'Jesus') approached the promised land with Israel, but due to their faithlessness in his report they failed to enter it; 40 years later they approached the land a second time with Joshua-Jesus, and entered it. We have shown earlier that Isa.53 is a prophecy of the suffering of Messiah; it is prefaced by the complaint " Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm (that Hebrew word is from the same root as that translated " seed" , alluding to the promised Messiah/seed of the promises) of the Lord revealed?" (Isa.53:1,2). This is alluding to Israel's disbelief of Joshua and Caleb's report concerning the promised land. This resulted in their wilderness sufferings for 40 years until they summoned enough faith to enter and inherit the land, having accepted the testimony of Joshua-Jesus. So Israel too have suffered and will yet suffer in the " wilderness of the people" (Ez.20:35) due to their rejection of the promised rest offered in Jesus, although afterwards they will be pleased to enter that rest under Jesus' leadership. The conquest of Canaan under Joshua has many connections with the latter day prophecies of Israel's future victories over their Arab neighbours under the leadership of Jesus.
- Joseph was rejected by his brethren due to his claims of special Divine revelation, as Jesus was by Israel. However, in their time of crisis they threw themselves at his feet, and after battling within themselves to have faith in his love and forgiveness, were saved by him out of their trouble. This all points forward to how the Jews will look upon Jesus whom they thought they had disposed of so long ago, and accept his offer of salvation from the dire straits they will soon be in at the hands of their enemies. Not without significance is Joseph's name at this time: 'Zaphnath Paaneah', meaning literally 'Saviour of the world'. This in itself cements Joseph as a type of Messiah.
- Elijah at his first ministry went about doing good deeds, as well as denouncing Israel's sin. He was persecuted by them, and then taken up into Heaven. At his second coming Israel will accept him, as they proclaim each Passover (cp. Mal.4). This typifies exactly the position with Jesus.
- An Israel dominated by superficial Saul persecuted David, God's anointed King (i.e. His messiah, anointed one). Only a remnant of Jewry accepted him, suffering with him in his troubles. But after successive Philistine military victories, David returned and was accepted by the people, who marvelled at his mercy to the house of Saul. The words 'Philistine' and 'Palestine' are linguistically connected; thus again we see the connection between an Arab victory over Israel and their acceptance of God's true Messiah.
- Similarly the book of Judges records many incidents in which Israel cried unto the Lord and repented due to the oppression by their Arab neighbours, which God responded to by sending them a " saviour" -a Jesus. Many of these " saviours" suffered experiences which Jesus, the ultimate saviour and judge of Israel, also experienced. Note that Mic.5:1 describes the persecuted Messiah as " the judge of Israel" . Consider the following:
a) Gideon was opposed to his father's household and the men of his city, although later they accepted his reformation of their false worship (Jud.6:27-32). Initially they wanted to kill him, but his father intervened so that in some strange, unrecorded way he overcame this death sentence. This exactly fits the position of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, his Father preserving him from the death sentence by means of resurrection. Gideon was from a small, despised family -as Jesus was despised by Israel for his poor background.
b) Israel were unwilling to fully support the great campaigns and victory of the great judge Deborah (Jud.5:15-17).
c) Jephthah, " the son of an harlot" , was " thrust out" by his brethren. In Israel's time of distress through the invasion of the children of Ammon (modern Jordan/Syria), they pleaded with him to return and be their leader: " They said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain...therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us...and be our head...the Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words" (Jud.11:1-10). This desperate pleading will only be matched by Israel's pleading for the return of Jesus when their Arab neighbours have brought them to their knees. Compare their initial mockery of Jephthah's parenthood (" Thou art the son of a strange woman" , v.2) with the Jewish claim that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier by a whore. Again, the pattern is clear; initial rejection of God's appointed saviour, mockery of his parenthood, the saviour in exile, then Israel's fervent repentance and desire of him as a result of their Arab oppression. It cannot be gainsaid that this makes Jesus of Nazareth the true Jewish saviour. During his exile, Jephthah lived in the land of Tob, a word meaning spiritually good, joyful, gracious etc.- a fitting type of Heaven, where Jesus spends his exile after his initial rejection.
d) Ibzan, a later judge, was from Bethlehem, the record twice stresses (Jud.12:8,10). This emphasis points us to Messiah, who was to be a Bethlehemite (Mic.5).
e) Samson was born by the intervention of God on his mother's womb, as in a far fuller sense was Jesus. He was betrayed by his brethren (Jud.15:9-13), but after winning the greatest ever victory against the Philistines (cp. the Arabs, Jud.16:30), was finally accepted by his brethren (so Jud.16:31 implies).
As a footnote to all this, it needs to be pointed out that the Talmud and most of the early Jewish writings teach the doctrine of the two Messiahs -one who would suffer and die, and the other who would rule and reign (see, e.g., the Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a). This shows the Jewish acceptance of the problem of making all the Messianic prophecies apply to just one coming of Messiah. They clearly indicate two comings of Messiah.